Good government through customer service

Nearly eight years after she entered a "sacred trust" with the people of Michigan and pledged to provide "good, clean, honest government," Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today said two words have inspired the successes of her two terms in office: customer service.

"Good things can happen in government when you ask, 'How can we best serve our customers?' and then find a way." Land said. "We know people want courtesy, convenience and efficiency from the Department of State and that's what we've given them."

During her tenure, Land and her team have revolutionized the department's branch office system and the state's elections system through innovation and technology. Hours and services at branches were expanded, the voting process was made easier and better and the department has become more responsive to customer needs--all promises Land made in her inaugural address in her first moments as Secretary on Jan. 1, 2003. Through their advocacy, Land and her colleagues in the department have also helped increase the number of registered organ donors in Michigan to a record level.
Highlights of the department's accomplishments under Secretary Land:

ENHANCING CUSTOMER SERVICE

• Toured every branch office in all 83 counties three times, listening to customers and employees and using the valuable feedback to deliver results.

• Modernized the branch office system, consolidating the overall number of branches from 173 to an eventual 131 and creating a new generation of branch offices--ultimately 7 SUPER!Centers and 47 PLUS offices--that offer expanded hours and enhanced services such as Self-Service Stations and document certification.

• Brought the ability to pay at the counter with Discover or MasterCard to all branch offices.

• Added many online options for customers, including the Plate it Your Way search engine to check the availability of personalized license plates, an award-winning application to perform Uniform Commercial Code transactions and a system on which auto dealers, repair facilities, mechanics and salvage yards can renew their licenses. Also increased the number of online registration renewals from 275,000 in FY 2003 to approximately 1.25 million in FY 2010.

DEMONSTRATING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY


• Managed the department budget during a challenging economic downturn, including a $14.9 million revenue shortfall in FY 2009. Careful planning, including an attrition policy that reduced the number of employees by more than 20 percent, enabled the department to live within its budget.

• Encouraged greater openness and transparency in government by putting the most detailed spending report of any state agency online and updating it quarterly.

• Opted to put the department's Web address (www.Michigan.gov/sos) rather than her name on branch office signs.

STRENGTHENING THE ELECTIONS SYSTEM
• Saved millions of tax dollars and provided voters with more certainty regarding election dates by consolidating local elections. Helped protect against election fraud by successfully implementing the state's voter ID law.

• Moved Michigan to a single, statewide voting standard known as optical scan, in which voters feed their ballots into an electronic tabulator and results are tallied faster and more accurately, while producing a paper trail. Introduced the laptop-based E-Pollbook program, in which voters are checked in at the polls with a quick scan of their driver's license.

• Worked with disability advocates to bring AutoMARK machines to every polling place, which enable voters with disabilities to cast their ballot on their own. Also established the Improving Access for All program to help communities improve physical access to polling places, allocating a total of over $1 million in federal funds to qualifying jurisdictions.

• Launched several outreach initiatives that helped increase voter participation, including visiting all university campuses and numerous naturalization ceremonies to offer voter registration opportunities. Michigan reached a new high of registered voters with 7.47 million in 2008, as well as record voter turnout in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections.

• Ensured that voters have helpful resources such as the online Voter Information Center (www.Michigan.gov/vote), at which they can preview a sample ballot for their jurisdiction before they vote and track the progress of their absentee ballot, among other options.

STRIVING TO ENSURE SAFETY

• Fought for federal approval of an enhanced driver's license (EDL) that allows travelers to more easily re-enter the United States at land and sea crossings. Worked with business and political leaders to make the vision a reality. The department has issued approximately 300,000 of the convenient, high-tech cards since the program began, helping protect the state's security as well as its economy.

• Overhauled the state's driver education program. Successfully pursued sweeping legislative changes that brought consistency between public and private driving schools and improved driver and instructor training.

• Created a nine-member Medical Advisory Board made up of professionals from across the medical spectrum that help the department update its physical, mental and visual standards used in evaluating the fitness of individuals to drive.

• Replaced the outdated "Old Blue" standard license plate with a modern design that is more reflective and easier to see at night, which assists law enforcement officers. Introduced a contemporary, visually appealing Spectacular Peninsulas plate that resulted from a statewide design challenge conducted by the department.

WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES

• Helped save lives by promoting organ donation at Buddy Day events in branch offices and through other efforts year-round. Teamed with other organizations to boost the state's donor registry over 2 million names, including a record 300,000 sign-ups in 2010 alone. Created the Shining Star award to recognize outstanding efforts for the cause. Introduced heart stickers for donors to place on their driver's license. Land also proposed the idea of including a box on Michigan tax returns, which residents could simply check to be added to the registry.

• Championed a new law to make removing abandoned vehicles from Michigan's roads and communities faster and easier. The Michigan Auto Lost & Found Web site also was developed within the department, tracking the disposal of more than 420,000 junk cars since October 2005.

• Over eight years, the department helped raise more than 150,000 pounds of food and thousands of dollars in donations for needy families in Michigan as part of the state's annual Harvest Gathering effort.

• Visited many elementary schools as part of National Reading Month, reading to students and sharing the importance of literacy in schoolwork and in life.

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